Renovated Visitors Centers to open Oct. 5

Centers on Temple Square use technology to emphasize the central role of Christ in the Church

When doors of the two newly renovated visitors centers on Temple Square open Oct. 5, visitors will find the same sense of serenity and peace that characterized the centers before renovation began.

They will find the life and mission of the Savior to be the same prevailing presentation, culminating in the "Christus" in the same breath-taking setting in the rotunda.

But little else will resemble the Visitors Centers of the past. Closed since January for major renovation, both the North and South centers have been redesigned to help visitors gain information in an engaging manner to their level of interest.

Through interactive video monitors and browser-friendly displays, visitors will have access to vasts amounts of information that teach and explain the doctrines of the Church.

These new centers are not the film-oriented centers of the past, explained Richard Heaton who supervises the centers for the Missionary Department. They reflect the modern means of hands-on communicating through video and audio presentations.

The venues are logically organized and thought provoking in their presentation. Visitors are led on a trail of discovery, moving from one colorful display to another, as they build their understanding of the Church.

Themes portrayed by the North Visitors Center emphasize the central role of Jesus Christ as the head of the Church, and establish the importance of scriptures and revelation, as well the need for prophets.

In the South Visitors Center, two themes of family and temple — each beginning at opposite ends of the building — blend together in the center where viewers are led to a spectacular view of the temple.

Visitors entering the North Visitors Center will be attracted to a three-dimensional tabletop map of Jerusalem. More than 4,000 miniature pieces were machined to detail the city much as it would have appeared when Jesus entered through a portal in the city wall for the Last Supper. To follow the events of the last hours of the Savior's life, viewers may press various buttons lining the display to hear a recorded message as overhead laser lights highlight the specific areas.

Looking up from the table map, visitors see life-size murals depicting key events in the Savior's life, beginning with His teaching in the temple. The paintings have been restored to enliven and brighten the colors, giving the thoughtful viewer the sensation of viewing the events as a participant.

Downstairs, visitors are greeted by a mannequin of Isaiah that begins a sojourn through the scriptures detailing the role of prophets. A mannequin of Joseph Smith standing in a setting of his rural farm in Palmyra, N.Y., transitions to an interactive display of monitors and video clips of conference addresses by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

Tabletop map made of 4,000 miniature pieces depicts Jerusalem much as it was at time of Jesus. Audio
Tabletop map made of 4,000 miniature pieces depicts Jerusalem much as it was at time of Jesus. Audio presentation and laser lights help visitor follow last steps of Savior's life. | Photo by Jason Olson

A third exhibit in the North Visitors Center, titled "Love Thy Neighbor," begins with a presentation of the Good Samaritan and shows how the Church's humanitarian aid effort is organized to assist others in the Lord's way. Part of the presentation includes a four-screen montage of videos depicting the disaster of Hurricane Mitch and relief efforts in Kosovo.

The exhibit demonstrates how the Church and its members are striving to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ by helping the needy, relieving suffering and building self-reliance.

The first half of the exhibit demonstrates how each can love his neighbor through individual and neighborhood service and explains the principles on which true service is based. The second half of the exhibit shows how the Church uses these principles in its welfare and humanitarian programs.

Visitors entering the South Visitors Center from the west entrance walk into a living room-like foyer where a Homefront commercial is playing in a small open theater. Large murals on the wall emphasize the family. Beyond the foyer, three cottage cutouts with a monitor in the front windows feature video clips of children and adults answering commonly asked questions about strengthening families.

Visitors entering the South Visitors Center through a new east entrance view vignettes detailing the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. A mannequin of Brigham Young greets visitors, followed by a display of rock being quarried from the mountains to be used to construct the temple.

One particularly interesting display highlights architect Truman O. Angell working at his desk with pencil sketches and drawing tools.

Visitors are guided through the displays to a large viewing area of the temple, emphasizing the role of the temple in binding eternal families.

The North and South Visitors Centers were constructed in 1963 and 1978 respectively. The centers have remained largely unchanged for the past 20 years, with only occasional changes in displays.


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